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Iowa City residents share diversity complaints with police and transportation

BY LAUREN COFFEY | NOVEMBER 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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Some immigrants living in Iowa City are calling for reform in the Iowa City police and the Iowa City transportation system.

More than 20 community members expressed their concerns Thursday night at a forum hosted by the city’s recently established Ad Hoc Diversity Committee.

Many in attendance agreed police officers need to provide immigrants with a greater understanding of the legal system, and that the Iowa City community must offer more bus routes.

Many community members shared their stories at the forum held in the Iowa City Public Library, some using a Spanish translator to tell of their experiences with the Iowa City police.

While most did not specifically blame the police, they did cite the need to have officers come to their neighborhood and explain the rules and rights each citizen has, as well as having an interpreter to accompany the officer.

The Immigrant Voices Project was a largely represented group at the forum, with around 20 members in attendance.

Mukhtar Adarov, a member of the leadership team and an immigrant, spoke out about being a cab driver and how he felt the Iowa City police was ethnically profiling him.

“It’s racial,” he said. “I hope [in the future] there would be a two-way communication with city police and immigrants.”

The Iowa City City Council voted to form the Ad Hoc Diversity Committee in June to help address the issues of complaints dealing with police officers and transportation. Thursday marked the committee’s first open forum, and officials hope for more meetings after the holidays.

The other issue that arose from the forum concerned issues with transportation, specifically to and from Kirkwood Community College and Forest View trailer park.

Currently, only one bus route per hour frequents Forest View. That means if residents miss that bus, they must wait another hour until the next bus comes.

Although there were many community comments, immigrants made up a majority of the event’s attendance.

“We had a good turnout; I wish people would have spoken more but it’s kind of an intimidating process,” said Kingsley Botchway, the committee head. “There are definitely issues we need to address and make the recommendation to City Council.”

Although the committee is intended to record concern dealing with police officers and transportation, that does not mean community members cannot share their concerns on other issues in Iowa City.

“We’re interested in having this as a tool,” City Clerk Marian Karr said at the forum. “It’s important to have this type of input from the community. It was very well-attended.”

Committee member Orville Townsend said it’s important for the community to work together and create better relations among the citizens in Iowa City.

“I came to school in the university in 1962, and this was a white community with few minorities,” he said. “If you look around today, we are a community in transition. My hope is something we can live up to what [the police force] say, to protect and serve. I think we have to live up a little to the serving, but it can happen. Anything that is going to happen, we need to make happen together.”


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